Then & Now

It seems that nearly every generation experiences an event so massive that it significantly affects our culture and sometimes even changes the thread of world history.  For me, that event, of course, is 9/11.  The actions and images of that day have been seared into our collective memories and psyches, and I daresay each of us has our own particular collection of emotions, opinions, and questions.  The next generation will not possess these first-hand memories.

Although I lost no immediate family that day, nor in any of the aftermath, the events did touch me closely. I was working in a Maryland county adjoining the District of Columbia that year, and in addition to personal trips into the nation’s capitol, work occasionally brought me into D.C. One project shortly before 9/11 was a rooftop-cell site survey in Rosslyn, Virginia, just across the Potomac River from the District. There I had a clear view of the Gannett building, a prominent high rise not far from the Pentagon.

On the morning of 9/11 as we gathered in the office to watch the continuous coverage, we heard an early report that mistakenly indicated that the Gannett building had been hit and was on fire.  The feeling of how close these events were to me and my work was eerily unnerving.

Ironically, around that same time we had been investigating the new technology of laser scanning.  Working with a local dealer, we used a scanner to gather data on a track section of the Washington Metro.  Shortly after 9/11 I received a call from the dealer asking if we’d be available to deploy a crew to New York City. We obtained corporate approval and prepared to go, but the effort was quickly called off.

It was roughly five years later when I met the author of one of this month’s features, Frank Hahnel, who knew the dealer we had worked with and had participated in scanning activities related to 9/11.  I got to know Frank—his dedicated personality and patriotic zeal—and we’ve kept in touch. 

Another five years later finds me working at PSM. What better time and venue for Frank to share his account with us? His story—the first of three parts—begins herein. Interestingly, because of his story I believe I now have an explanation for why my own scanning trip to NYC was abruptly cancelled.

Although the memories and consequences of that day remain with us, time does help heal. Our lives go on; we rebuild. One World Trade Center rises as the most visible sign of the rebirth in New York, but the tower is surrounded and supported by a complex orchestra of construction. We can be thankful for the proud and professional efforts of men and women like the World Trade Center’s chief of surveys, Scott Zelenak, who is the subject of another feature this month. These efforts assure us that future generations will live, work, and reflect at this historic location.


About the Author

  • TJ Frazier, LS
    TJ Frazier, LS
    TJ Frazier is the magazine's editor for surveying and has more than 20 years experience in the surveying profession, currently as senior land surveyor for VanMar Associates in Mt. Airy, Md. He also worked in survey equipment sales for Loyola Spatial Systems, now part of Leica Geosystems. He earned a bachelor of sciences degree in business at Mt. St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md. He is married and has two daughters. Frazier can be reached at

» Back to our September 2011 Issue